The different methodologies used by value funds can affect their style tilt and performance.
A version of this article appeared in the April 2017 issue of Morningstar ETFInvestor.
Value investing has long been associated with excess rates of return. Generally speaking, a value-oriented approach involves buying stocks that are cheap according to some measure of intrinsic value in hopes that they will one day revert to their fair value. But that day may be a long time in coming--if it ever comes at all. Patience is a requirement, and the past decade has tested the strongest advocates of value investing. For the 10-year period through December 2016, the Russell 1000 Value Index underperformed the broader Russell 1000 Index by almost 1.5 percentage points annually. Adding insult to injury, it was also more volatile and suffered deeper drawdowns during the depths of the global financial crisis.
By measure of the same Russell indexes, value continued to have a difficult time as it emerged from its postcrisis nadir. From March 2009 through December 2016, the Russell 1000 Index again outpaced the Russell 1000 Value Index, in this instance by 16 basis points annually. That's not a huge difference, but it's notable considering value strategies are associated with higher expected returns. However, drawing the conclusion that all value strategies underperformed during this period would be shortsighted. Not all value strategies are created equal.
Large-cap value funds are plentiful in the United States, and many of them are actively managed. Here, I'll look more closely at a select subset of funds within the large-value Morningstar Category. My sample is dominated by index-tracking ETFs with at least 10-years of returns. I've also included DFA U.S. Large Cap Value DFLVX as it employs a systematic, rules-based strategy. All of these were investable as of this writing.
A quick review of this group shows that some have indeed outperformed the broader U.S. stock market in the postrecession bull run. From March 2009 through December 2016, 10 of these funds beat Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF VTI. Some downright killed it--generating excess returns of more than 2 percentage points annually. There were also a fair number (eight) that underperformed during this period. At a high level, this shows that there may be more to a value fund than is implied by its name or category membership.
To investigate this further I ran a four-factor regression using data from the French Data Library. The factors considered in this study were market (beta), size (small minus big, or SMB), value (high minus low, or HML) and profitability (robust minus weak, or RMW). The outcome of this analysis helped me place the funds in my sample into three different subcategories: deep value, value plus profitability, and mild value.